Merida is known as the cultural center of the Yucatán. Only a 3-hour drive from Tulum, it was named the American Capital of Culture twice. Being one of the most livable cities in Mexico, it is no surprise that a food wave is beginning to blossom, and outsiders are starting to pay attention to its culinary scene.
Its citizens, many of Mayan descent, are known for creating a Yucatecan cuisine that people from all over the world come to the region to savor. While there are many well-known Yucatecan restaurants such as Chaya Maya, a new group of small establishments focused on ancestral corn and other regional products like honey and heirloom vegetables are sprouting. We recently visited two establishments that blew our mind
with their flavors, attention to detail, plating, and focus on the MAIZ CRIOLLO or HEIRLOOM CORN as a symbol of Mexican culture.
1 / Pancho Maiz (Calle 59 437a, Parque de la Mejorada, Centro, 97000 Mérida, Yuc.), open Monday through Saturday, is a restaurant focused on rescuing, diffusing, and transforming the native corn of the Yucatan Peninsula. When you walk into their traditional Merida space, with the typical floral tiles and large windows facing the street, you encounter baskets full of fruits from nearby Mayan pueblos, such as Maracuya (passion fruit).
You can find a list of traditional Mexican plates such as sopes, tlacoyos, quesadillas, memelas, and tacos. Still, the heirloom corn and its nutrientense flavor differ from commercial restaurants. We tried enfrijoladas, a dish focused on native beans and corn topped with cheese straight from the nearby rancho. Visit with an empty stomach as you want to try a bit of everything.
2 / An obligatory road stop is the recently opened Ramiro Cocina, headed by chef Alejandro Marcín (Calle 41 x 58 y 60, P.º de Montejo 386 D, Centro, 97000 Mérida, Yuc.), open from Monday through Saturday.
There is something surprisingly French (influenced by the owner’s French/Mexican ancestral roots) in this small place’s gorgeous plating and atmosphere. Imagine tasting a fresh pumpkin quesadilla made with heirloom
corn, followed by a Quesabirria with local cheese and shredded meat, usually from beef or lamb. Our favorite was the Minguiche, made with fresh tomato, cotija cheese, and poblano pepper slices with a touch of sour cream. This small establishment is immaculate and minimal, with pops of color in their dishes and scenery using clay plates and cups that take us back to old
Mexico’s original texture and flavors.
Next time you visit Merida, ask for places with Maiz Criollo (Heirloom Corn). It’s all about conscious tourism and supporting small businesses reviving nourishing traditions